Monday, September 9, 2019

5 ways Catholics can take action to help immigrant families

The separation of children from their parents at the border has thrown our country’s immigration problems into high relief. Many Americans responded to the administration’s policy change with outrage. Though the president signed an executive order on June 20 that nominally ends this family separation policy, the crisis is not over.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), know this from our long experience working with immigrants and from the witness of our 330 affiliates across the country.
Every day we aim to ensure the dignity of all newcomers under an onslaught of attacks on humanitarian and family immigration.
Here is what you can do to help us and our many partners in this effort.  

1. Educate yourself and keep informed
This latest spectacle at the border did not appear out of thin air. The termination of Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of people, the abandonment of DACA recipients, and the slashing of the refugee resettlement program are all part of a plan to limit all forms of immigration. Although there’s been no increase in the number of asylum seekers trying to present themselves at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, many have been turned away or made to wait in line for a week or longer. With no end in sight, some feel the risk is necessary and cross illegally.
Even if this type of family separation is “ended,” family detention is not a solution. Detention centers cause serious irrevocable harm to a child’s health and development.
If you are angry over about what has happened in recent weeks, there are plenty of reasons to stay alert. Family separation was an egregious example of our nation’s unjust immigration policy, but it is not unique. Follow organizations like CLINIC, the Kino Border Initiative, the Hope Border Institute, and Justice for Immigrants, a campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to stay aware of the latest developments in immigration and how you can help.

2. Contact your representatives: Demand oversight and a plan to reunite these families
Much damage has been done. It isn’t over until every child is reunited with their family in a safe environment. Demand that the Department of Homeland Security release a plan to fix their mistakes. Call on Congress to provide oversight and investigate what is happening. Remind your representatives that the administration’s decision to separate families increased costs to the taxpayer. In addition the money for the facilities the administration tossed together to hold these children, those kids will now be in separate immigration proceedings from their parents, adding duplicative cases to an already overburdened system.
Finally, ask for a legislative solution that does not pit one group of immigrants against another—family reunification, refugee resettlement, asylum and skills-based immigration are equally important forms of migration that benefit our country and reaffirm our values.
The USCCB has long worked for immigration reform that would accomplish those goals. Past failed legislative proposals have come close to these goals and won the support of the U.S. bishops. You can see a breakdown of specific principles the USCCB and other Catholic agencies have supported here.
Financially support organizations like CLINIC and our affiliates
An immigrant represented by a trained lawyer or accredited representative is far more likely to see a positive outcome of their case. U.S. immigration law is incredibly complex. Imagine trying to file your taxes on your own—no help from TurboTax!—in a language that isn’t familiar and after suffering a life-changing trauma. On top of that, your life and the lives of your children depend on this one chance. No one should have to do that without help.

3. Financial donations are especially important right now. Detention centers are usually located in rural areas that are difficult to reach. Programs need extra funds to get their staff and volunteers where they are needed in order to make sure as many people as possible have access to the above representation.
Consider donating to one of our affiliates near you (find one at or give directly to CLINIC. We are raising $30,000 to help send volunteers from our affiliates directly to problem areas to bolster local efforts.
In the first wave, we will be sending people to a nonprofit along the U.S.-Mexico border or the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, where they will provide in-person, in-depth advising and orientation for people in Mexico about what to expect when they attempt to seek asylum in the United States or work with families being detained in Dilley.

4. Organize screenings and Know Your Rights presentations
The border is more than a physical place. It exists right in your own neighborhood. You do not need to travel to Mexico to find immigrants who need help. Organize Know Your Rights presentations and screenings to help immigrants in your own community understand their options.
Know Your Rights presentations explain the rights people have, regardless of immigration status, when interacting with law enforcement, at their workplace, and in public schools. Free resources are available in nine languages to help you host these presentations.
Screenings, meanwhile, are community events that help immigrants understand the immigration benefits available to them. A screener will ask an immigrant a series of questions and then send them to a lawyer or accredited representative for a final eligibility assessment. If they qualify for aid, organizers can then refer them to quality legal representation and they receive help in applying.
recent study CLINIC helped conduct found that as many as two million undocumented immigrants qualify for some type of immigration relief but don’t know it. The study also found that many people who identified as “immigrants” were actually U.S. citizens!

5. Pray
In response to the current situation at the border, many groups are organizing prayer events, like Break Bread Not Families. Take a moment to say CLINIC’s prayer for migrants or a rosary with Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray for the dignity of migrants around the world.
The issue of immigration demands a long term, prayerful approach. It takes careful consideration to understand how we can work with the immigrants in our community to find solutions and offer aid. Turn inward and ask God to show you your strengths and the strengths of your community. We all have the capacity to help. To learn about discerning how to welcome your neighbor, visit or use our digital devotional to host a small group at your parish and talk about this issue.

For the past 30 years, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., has worked to improve access to affordable immigration legal services. Better known as CLINIC, we are the largest network of community-based nonprofit immigration legal programs, with 330 affiliates in 47 states and the District of Columbia. CLINIC’s services include legal and management training for our affiliates, advocacy for humane immigration policies, representing foreign-born religious workers, and leading several national projects to protect the rights and promote the dignity of immigrants.

By Michelle Fordice

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